Our first port of call after Venice is Stresa, situated on Lago Maggiore in the Italian Lakes. At the top end of Lago Maggiore, which is 54km long, is Switzerland and in fact you can take a ferry all the way up the lake and visit Locarno for the day.
My favourite thing to see in Stresa is the Borromean Isles, which are three islands – Isola Bella, Isola Madre and Isola Pescatori. The amazing palace on Isola Bella was built by the aristocratic Borromeo family in 1630. All three islands have their own charm and are magically picturesque. Part of the spectacular gardens of Isola Bella were used as a location in the Star Wars movie ‘Attack of the Clones’. The palace itself is quirky and beautiful and exotic with white peacocks roaming the gardens. You can spend a day exploring the islands, stopping for a coffee, lunch or a drink.
I also thoroughly enjoy taking the Cable Car up to Mount Mottarone, a ski field in winter. With 360° views across Lago Maggiore and the Alps, it’s pretty spectacular. Great for walks or to just sit in a café sipping a hot chocolate or a glass of wine.
Unlike other Italian Lakes towns, Stresa is not so touristy and is a charming lakeside holiday resort. I always love visiting Stresa, strolling along the Lakeside promenade, stopping for a drink at the Grand Hotel des Îles Borromées which was built in the 1860s. Ernest Hemmingway stayed here to convalesce after WW1 and he wrote about Stresa in his book ‘Farewell to Arms’.
Another of my favourite things is dinner at a super little restaurant on the Piazza Cadorna. The proprietress, Domenica is the most wonderful lady and usually treats me and the group to a bottle or two of Limoncello gratis. Now, if you’ve never had Limoncello, hers, served straight from the freezer in chilled shot glasses is an absolute treat.
We have three nights staying here in Stresa at the end of June. Join us on 25th June as we meet up in Venice for 25 days of Incredible Italy.